(U.S. Senate) – Following his efforts, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced $2.15 million in federal funding for Montana organizations to support efforts to end veteran suicide. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) awarded these funds under the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program, a first-of-its-kind program created by the Senator’s historic Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act (Hannon Act) to provide federal funding for local suicide prevention programs.
“Veteran suicide rates are steadily decreasing thanks to mental health and suicide prevention programs under the Hannon Act that are keeping more folks from falling through the cracks,” said Tester. “That’s why I’m proud to have championed these funds that’ll ensure organizations on the ground have the resources they need to keep up the good work and continue connecting Montana veterans with the life-saving tools they need and earned.”
Tester’s announcement follows the release of VA’s National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which revealed a decrease in the veterans suicide rate from 2019 to 2020 for the second year in a row. Following support from Tester, Montana recipients include:
- $750,000 for Adaptive Performance Center in Billings
- $650,000 for Rocky Boy Veterans Center on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation in Box Elder
- $750,000 for Volunteers of America Northern Rockies, a statewide organization
Named for a Montana veteran who lost his life to suicide, Tester championed the Hannon Act in his capacity as the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to bolster VA’s mental health workforce and increase rural veterans’ access to care through alternative and local treatment options. Among its many provisions, the law established the Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant Program, a three-year community-based grant program to deliver financial assistance to organizations that provide or coordinate suicide prevention services for at-risk veterans and their families.
As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester secured $174 million in funding for the grant program, and organizations were able to apply for up to $750,000 in grants, which are renewable on an annual basis by application. He also encouraged Montana organizations to apply to the program in April.
Earlier this year, Tester also announced VA Montana was selected to serve as a pilot site for a new innovative mental health program established under the Hannon Act, to provide access to complementary and integrative health services, like equine therapy and agritherapy. As Chairman, he is continuing to work to strengthen veterans’ mental health resources by spearheading bipartisan legislation such as the Support The Resilience of Our Nation’s Great (STRONG) Veterans Act which would strengthen life-saving tools like the Veterans Crisis Line, expand care options, and support mental health research at VA.